Get Even More Visitors To Your Blog, Upgrade To A Business Listing >>

BQ or Bust Round 2: Keep Showing Up

Tags: mile pace miles

I really didn't think I'd be sitting down to tell this story. Yet, here we are.

I'm currently sitting in my Normatec boots, post flush recovery swim, pre early bedtime because I'm a believing in all forms of recovery.

I really never thought Saturday's marathon would end the way it did.

I had my time to be upset, even though it wasn't much.

Yes, I'm ok. Definitely bummed, but not crushed.

Yes, I'm already formulating Plan B.

No, I don't think I took on to much at once. I live for life under pressure.

No, my quest to Boston isn't over just yet.

BFG brother to offer immediate comforts

I didn't have a hard time sleeping on Friday night. I had a full week at work and was able to zonk without to much tossing and turning. When my alarm went off my feet hit the floor and I started the process.

Bathroom. Brush teeth. Coffee. Banana. Toast the bread. Coat with generous portion of peanut butter and jelly. Scroll email/news while I let my stomach realize that this is breakfast time at 3:15am. 

I arrived to the race site and was able to grab my bib immediately and headed back to my car where I sat in the warmth until I absolutely had to get out and start my warm up to the start line. Long time friend Jason had just moved back home after finishing chiropractic school in Florida and he kept me company until Rob showed up and we all ventured to the start.

A few things you need to know about this race: 

1. The course is a 3.25 Mile loop that is run around a forest preserve in Batavia, IL.
2. It's extremely flat and fast.
3. There are 2 aid stations per loop, for a total of 16 aid stations over 26 Miles
4. The bib numbers are assigned by BQ standards. My BQ time is 3:30. My bib number was 33014. Hence, I should be on the lookout on course for other bibs that started with "330" and the 14 recognized that I was the 14th person in my age group to register. 
5. An "elite" water bottle station was set up so you could drop a water bottle mixed with whatever concoction/nutrition you preferred for your race and grab it once during each loop. 
6. Because of its looped nature, I was able to see any spectator 8 times over 26.2 miles. This was HUGE for my mental game. 
7. The Pace groups are paced to finish 1 minute under your respective qualifying time to ensure you qualify for Boston if you finish with the appropriate pace group. 

I kissed Rob goodbye, gave Jason a high five and took off for the start to find the appropriate pace group. I wasn't about to get friendly with the 3:30 group because we all know after last year, it takes more than 1 minute to solidify entry into this race. So I meandered to the 3:25 group and found 1 other female. {Technically, 3:30 is the fastest any female has to run to qualify for Boston so the fact that I saw any other female with the 3:25 group meant that she was here for the same reasons I was.} We instantly made eye contact, I noted her bib number, 33017, and she walked up to me. "Not interested in the 3:30 group, eh?" My kinda girl. "Me either, I missed entry into Boston last year because of 10 seconds so I'm not playing around anymore." HOLY HELL I THOUGHT MY 19 SECONDS WAS HEART BREAKING. I knew right away this girl was one to hang onto. The gun went off and we formally introduced ourselves as we crossed the timing pads. "Hi, I'm Megan." "Nice to meet you, I'm Emily." 

Meet Emily, in the American flag arm sleeves

Emily and I immediately latched onto each other made friends with the 3:25 pace group. She's from Indianapolis. I'm from down the street. Our pacer in the bright yellow asked, "so, who do you run with?" I asked if he knew Jacqui and Ryan Giuliano. He laughed and smirked from ear to ear. "Oh of course I do!" Mile 1 ticket by at 7:41 and we all laughed as a group. Welp, we got 5 seconds to excited. Just after mile 2 (7:44) I told the pacer to be on the lookout for Jacqui, just up the road. And sure enough, there she was smiling and cheering away. He yelled, "HEY! I told her I knew Jacqui Giuliano!" 

Because I was SO excited to see cheering squad number 1!
We were closing in on mile 3 and just about done with the first lap and I could tell the body was feeling AMAZING. No aches. No "maybe that mile was a bit fast" issues. Just cruise control. This is what I'd hoped for a lot longer than I had it. As we clocked mile 3 at 7:32, we noted that we needed to slow down, regardless of how good we felt. The only problem was that I noticed my watch wasn't always reading proper pacing. I never expect it to be perfect, but at times I'd glance at my watch at see a 9 minute pace, forcing me to up the pace. 

We closed out the first lap and I spotted Life Time mentor and friend Karie on the side of the path, arm extended to wish me will, leaning over to remind me to keep my shoulders relaxed and stay smooth with my strides. Karie is someone I've known of is the racing circuit for quite a while, but only in the past 4 months have we started a true friendship. And I have to say, there's something about her voice, her stern reminders. She elicits a confidence and certainty when she speaks, and today was no different. I took her advice and kept my eyes straight ahead. eyes on the prize. 

Mile 4 clicked at 7:30 and I knew then that Emily and I needed to slow down. Although, something weird happened. When we slowed down, we lost the group. As in, they fell behind us. We held stride for stride but continued to run ahead of the of 3:25 group. Mile 5 clocked a 7:57, welcomed after so many fast miles. But then we noticed that Emily's watch never matched mine. If mine read fast, hers read slow. And vice versa. We did the best we could, but the miles kept ticking by faster than we hoped they would. 

Rob caught us during lap 2 on the pedestrian bridge
We found Jacqui again and this time I gave her a proper introduction to Emily, promising that she was who I needed to keep pace with today. 

Clearly mid-introduction
Emily and I held onto each other and chatted a little here and there. She was expecting to see her sister soon while I told her that Rob would pop up on course soon, coffee in hand.

Doin' what we love and lovin' what we do
The miles continued to tick by lap after lap. The inconsistency of our watches continued and we never thought to much about it. I yelled at her when we were going to fast "OMG 7:05 THIS ISN'T THE KENTUCKY DERBY!" and she'd laugh. And when my watch screamed 10 minute miles, she assured me that we were not in fact walking. 

To give you and idea of what we were dealing with, my splits obviously tell a story about where the course wasn't GPS friendly for me: 

1: 7:41 (excited for the start)
2: 7:44 (goal pace)
3: 7:32
4: 7:30 (dream pace)
5: 7:57
6: 7:44 (goal pace)
7: 7:33 
8: 7:51 (perfect, hang here for a while)
9: 7:55
10: 7:35 (UGGGGHHHH)

After the 2nd aid station on each lap, there was a significant incline that wasn't truly a hill, but a steady incline that may or may not have left it's mark on me after the 3rd or 4th lap. After the first 2 laps I didn't think much about it, but by the 3rd lap, I could tell that Emily recovered from that little section much quicker than I did. 

The lap that Emily introduced me to her dad and he responded with, "LEAVE HER IN THE DUST MEGAN!"

Just around lap 5 is when I started to feel a TINY bit tired. Nothing to write home about, but enough that I could tell fatigue was setting in. No big deal, the 2nd wind is a glorious thing and I'll certainly bounce back, right? 

We eventually evened ourselves out and met back with the 325 group
Wrong. Miles 11-15 went as follows: 7:51, :41, :53, :49, :37. And then mile 16 happened. I went from on top of the world, to and 8:18 mile. I remember so vividly, my watched clicked and I glanced and instantly muttered, oh shit. I knew I was feeling a tad tired, but an 8:18 was what I envisioned for the final 3 miles when your legs take on a whole separate form of functioning. By the time I wrapped up this lap I was close to mile 19. Rob knew I was hurting, and he made his way to the park entrance and ran along side of me for a short stretch. I told him I didn't know if I should keep going for a finish or pull the plug in an effort to attempt to race Illinois in 2 short weeks.  If you keep running, will you hurt yourself?, he asked. No, I told him. But I'm running out of available weekends to get this job done, I need to decide within the next mile. He pealed off course and just ahead was Karie. She knew something was up and put a hop to her step while I filled her in. If you decide to finish the race DO NOT run hard right now, save yourself for other opportunities. Wise woman she is. She made up my mind. 

Wishing Karie was about to run the last 7 miles with me

I didn't come here to quit. I didn't quite do what I wanted, but stepping off course was never something I've actually envisioned myself doing. I decided right then and there, I dialed the pace back A LOT, practically to a shuffle. I put one foot in front of the other. I found myself another finish line. The final miles, they weren't anything pretty at all. At one point the 3:30 pace group inched behind me and I caught a short 2nd wind. OK, maybe you can hang with them for the final miles. This is your last shot. My legs obeyed for about 45 seconds before they fell victim to the 9 minute mile again, and I then let them fall victim to an even slower pace. 

Final lap, mentally the most difficult.
You mind goes to some dark places during these types of events. People always ask me what's harder, the marathon or the Ironman? I always tell them the marathon. 100%. The Ironman is such a long day that you have so many opportunities to bounce back. The marathon can break you down physically and mentally faster than almost any distance triathlon. I thought of a lot during that last lap. I remembered how hard it was to finish my first marathon, 9 years ago. A college student with some guts that decided to take a chance. I remembered crossing that finish line in 5 hours and 27 minutes and thinking to myself, "there's no way I'll ever do that again."  I remembered how awesome it was to qualify for Boston at Grandma's only 10 months prior, almost 2 hours faster than my original marathon time. I remembered watching The 2018 Boston Marathon on TV and seeing Des Linden take home the title, in the pouring rain and nasty winds on the bitterest day. The underdog. The blue collar runner. She defied the naysayers and got the job done. She showed up. She kept showing up. When the going got tough and the wind forced her to sway down Boylston street, she got the job done. 

I showed up.

And I'll keep showing up until I get the job done.
I found the finish line 11 minutes after my qualifying time. I could make many excuses about why my day didn't go as planned. Analysis has been running through my mind for 7 days now. It'll never stop, if I'm being honest. Maybe I'll find the answers one day, maybe I won't. But I do know one thing, the day I do toe that line in Hopkinton I'll cry buckets. I'll hug every volunteer I encounter in Boston. I'll drink nothing but Dunkin' and 26.2 Brew and Sam Adams all weekend. I'll stop at the finish line to stand there and soak in the moment so I'll never forget. I'll pay respects to the bombing victims and their families. I'll be forever grateful for my chance to run the greatest marathon in the world. Because it'll be the hardest thing I've ever worked for in my life to date.

Last race as Megan Hode
Soon to be Mr & Mrs Sloan
Until then, I've got a wedding to plan 😉

You know this story isn't over. Stay tuned for Plan B. 


PS. I gave this race a much more formal review for Chicago Athlete Magazine. If you're interested in that, you can find it here!

This post first appeared on She Thought She Could, So She Did, please read the originial post: here

Share the post

BQ or Bust Round 2: Keep Showing Up


Subscribe to She Thought She Could, So She Did

Get updates delivered right to your inbox!

Thank you for your subscription